Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Silence

After a long, hard day of work I love to retire to the refuge of my home. Not!
I love my home and my family, but there is usually a meal to make, mail to sort, dishes to clean, and so forth. Hardly a refuge. You know the drill. You change from one set of expectations to another. Different activities, but the same pace and relentless demands. It seems like the world doesn’t slow down. Only the scenery changes.
There is an antidote for this, you know. But it involves sacrifice and swimming upstream against the ubiquitous din of our culture. The answer is silence.



Silence is the white space that gives the text its meaning. We often think it is the words, but you would only be able to distinguish the shape of the letters when they are in contrast to the white space around them. Silence gives meaning to our thoughts and words.
Our world runs at a frantic pace in which one thing after another bombards us and call out for our immediate and full attention. Cell phones, text messages, billboards, radio ads, television programming, emails, letters and personal conversations demand that our senses be tuned to their urgent demands for attention.
Doesn’t that make you long for the leisure of thought and reflection?
The Biblical writers lived in a less complex world. Yet even they understood the value of silence. Job expressed it near the end of the book. This was after listening to the incessant babble of “wisdom” from his friends. Once Job encountered God and understood who God is he quit talking and started worshipping.
Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.” ” (Job 40:3–5)
When the Lord confronted Habakkuk over the grievous sin of the nation, he replied with silence.
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” ” (Habakkuk 2:20)
At the end of the age, when God breaks open the seventh seal of judgment on the earth, the only appropriate response will be silence.
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. ” (Revelation 8:1)
We underestimate the value of silence in our world today. Silence is an act of humility that speaks little and comprehends much. Listen to the words of Robert Webber, from his book, The Biblical Foundations of Christian Worship.
In the presence of the mystery of the being of God, silence is an appropriate act of worship. Silence is the recognition that human utterance is often presumptuous in the face of the divine self-revelation. Before the Creator, the creature must confront his or her finitude. The worshiper is as nothing before him who is all. The biblical worshiper understands that to occupy oneself with verbal products of the human mentality is an act of pride, in effect a denial of God’s place as sovereign Lord (Ps. 131:1; Job 42:3).[1]

In music it’s easy to think that the notes are the most important part of the score. But maybe, just maybe, it’s the rests. No cacophany of empty phrases. No scripted soliloquies. Just me. And God. In silence. In worship. 


[1] Robert Webber, The Biblical Foundations of Christian Worship, 1st ed. (Nashville, Tenn.: Star Song Pub. Group, 1993), 290.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

still not a Calvinist, but I love these brothers


Why would this non-reformed pastor go to a conference for reformed pastors?
For several years I attended the Desiring God Pastor's Conference faithfully when it was held at Bethlehem Baptist. I loved the fellowship of the pastors, the stirring worship, and the challenging messages of the speakers. But then something happened. I'm not entirely sure why I missed a year, but then I missed the next one and the one after that. Before long, I realized that I've probably missed most of the last decade.
I went back this year because of the theme of prayer. My heart needs to be warmed again by hearing others talk about prayer. Prayer is often such an intensely private experience. There is nothing in all the world like connecting personally to God. Even in silence I am warmed by his love and communion with him. But at times I fall into a pattern (rut, really) that drains the joy out prayer. I needed to be reminded again how incredible this gift is. I needed to hear from others in their journeys. I needed to gain a fresh perspective and a new look.
Have you ever seen a person walk over live coals? Do you want to know their secret? Part of the answer lies in the thin layer of ash that covers each coal as it burns. The fire is deep in the coals, but the outside layer is insulated by this ash. My heart forms ash as it burns. The passion of my love with God goes deeper and the flame may be very alive, but my heart is well insulated. Sometimes I don't even feel it.
Even though I'm not fully reformed in my doctrine (still can't embrace all of that third point of Calvinism) I greatly appreciate my reformed, Calvinistic brothers. I drew on their passion for Christ and listened attentively to their heart. It's something just to hear John Piper pray! His intimate prayer and his passion for God leak out of every pore of his body. I long to burn like that.
In the days to come, I'll be reading on prayer. (I got about 6-7 books on prayer at the conference – all free!) I'll be writing sermons and Life Group lessons on prayer. I'll be studying Christ's prayers (especially John 17). But mostly I plan to pray. I am simply longing for God to gently blow off the ash that has once again insulated my heart.